The Best Water Bottle Review

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Hydratin' with the MSR Alpine near Berthoud Pass, Colorado.
Credit: Sebastian Bailey
We challenged long-time rulers of the outdoor-bottle market, and determined which was truly best in this comprehensive, side-by-side review. The Nalgene may be the standard, but it encountered fierce competition. Collapsible designs, perfect for ultralight outings, "sippy-top" options and others fill niche roles in ways that main-stream bottles are unable to match. We evaluated each on parameters of utility, durability, ease of use and leak-proofness to determine our winners. Read on, and find out which is best for you adventures.

Some other water-related reviews you might be interested in: Hydration Packs and Hydration Bladders.

Read the full review below >

Review by: Atherton Phleger ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab August 20, 2013

Top Ranked Water Bottles Displaying 1 - 5 of 8 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Nalgene
Nalgene
Read the Review
Klean Kanteen
Klean Kanteen
Read the Review
Camelbak Eddy
Camelbak Eddy
Read the Review
Platypus PlusBottle
Platypus PlusBottle
Read the Review
Vapur Element
Vapur Element
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $8.24 - $11.24
Compare at 8 sellers
Varies $14 - $20
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $13 - $25
Compare at 10 sellers
$17
Compare at 6 sellers
Varies $12 - $14
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score 
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User Rating
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80% recommend it (4/5)
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75% recommend it (3/4)
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1 rating
Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Durable, compatible with water filters, light, can be used as hot water bottleDurable, does not mold or hold taste, wide choice of tops.Durable, handy straw, can use one-handedVersatile, light, large volumeEasy to use, packable
Cons Holds tastes, top loop is unreliableNot compatible with water filters, heavy.Difficult to clean, complex.durabilityNot versatile
Best Uses Any activity where a lighter water bottle is helpful: hiking, backpacking, climbingAny activity where weight is not a critical issue: daily use, sports, hiking, campingDaily use, dayhikesBackpacking, climbing, backcountry exploitsDaily, lifestyle
Date Reviewed Aug 20, 2013Aug 20, 2013Aug 20, 2013Aug 20, 2013Aug 20, 2013
Weighted Scores Nalgene Klean Kanteen Camelbak Eddy Platypus PlusBottle Vapur Element
Durability - 25%
10
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7
10
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8
10
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8
10
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6
10
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7
Ease Of Use - 25%
10
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8
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8
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8
Versatility - 25%
10
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9
10
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7
Versatility - 25%
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9
Product Specs Nalgene Klean Kanteen Camelbak Eddy Platypus PlusBottle Vapur Element
Weight (Volume) 6.2 oz (0.95 L) 10 oz (1.18 L) 5.4 oz (7.5 l) 1 oz (2 L) 2.6 oz (.75 L)
Largest Volume 1.42 Liters 1.89 Liters 1 liter 2 Liters 1 Liter
Warranty REI/Backcountry REI/Backcountry Rei/backcountry Backcountry Unknown
Material Tritan Copolyester Stainless Steel Tritan copolyester BPA Free plastic BPA Free plastic

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners
  • All Reviewed Products
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Nalgene
$10
100
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85
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Platypus PlusBottle
$13
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80
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Klean Kanteen
$18-26
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80
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Camelbak Eddy
$16
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80
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Vapur Element
$14
100
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78
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Liberty Bottle
$8
100
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73
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Camelbak Groove
$25.00
100
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78
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MSR Alpine
$33
100
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70
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Types of water bottles
While the Nalgene was once the one-size-fits all staple of outdoor recreationists, the market has grown enormously in recent years. Consumers can now choose from all manner of materials and designs. To help you navigate the increasingly varied world of water-bottles, we’ve outlined the primary features and advantages of each major category:

Plastic
Even with the post-BPA rise in metal designs, plastic is still the most commonly seen material. Plastic is cheap, versatile, and a better insulator than metal. Plastic also tend to be much lighter. Included this category are the collapsible models like the Platypus PlusBottle and Vapur. Plastic is best suited for extended trips, or anytime weight becomes a consideration. While plastic versions came under scrutiny a few years ago because of concerns about BPA, nearly any model available today and every one that we tested is BPA-free.

Co-polyester, branded as Tritan, has emerged as the primary replacement for the old BPA recipe. Tritan tends to be more brittle than the old material, but still worth purchasing.

Metal
Metal Bottles, like the Klean Kanteen and MSR Alpine, tend to be more durable than their plastic counterparts. They will dent easily, but beyond aesthetic damage, they are nearly indestructible. Metal designs are typically heavier, and the classic Klean Kanteen narrow-mouth size is not usually compatible with filters or other accessories designed for Nalgenes. Most manufacturers have addressed this problem by creating their own wide-mouth versions.

Metal options, because of their weight, are great for daily use but are hard to justify on longer trips. We may occasionally bring one along as an emergency (or even primary) cooking vessel, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Overall, metal versions are much better suited for day-to-day drinking than longer outings.

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Climbing with a metal bottle in Castle Rock State Park, California.
Credit: Cady Watts

Collapsible
Some products, like the Platy Plus and Vapur, are collapsible. The entire thing can be rolled up and stowed to a size no bigger than a pair of thin socks. They are extremely light and, as in the case of the Platy Plus, can hold a much greater volume than their rigid counterparts.

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The Platy Plus and Vapur Element, packed volume.
Credit: Atherton Phleger

Because of their meager weight and ease of storage, collapsible versions are our favorite for backpacking and climbing.

That being said, they are far less durable than rigid models. The thin material does not stand up well to use. Frequent flexing on specific points can quickly create leaks.

Sipper Lids
There are two frequent styles of lids: conventional lids, which screw on and off, and “sipper lids”, which have straws or “sport” cap styles, which allow the user to drink without removing the cap. Conventional lids are easy to use, easy to lose, and simple to repair or replace. For all applications which are not clearly made simpler by a “sipper”, we prefer conventional caps. Sipper lids are useful for children, one-handed drinking, and preventing spills but due to their additional components, they create a possible point of leakage.

A word on BPA
Every design we tested was BPA Free. Models containing BPA have become a thing of the past after the scare in 2008. Many contenders we tested were plastic however, and there is mounting councern about some of the other dangers that petroleum products may present to drinking water. (http://www.babycenter.ca/a1017837/phthalates-what-you-need-to-know);. In the case of phthalates, there has not been sufficient concern, scientific research, and public support to convince outdoor manufacturers to label and address the problem of phthalates. I suspect, however, that even if phthalates were eliminated someone eventually would discover another concerning feature of plastic. If drinking out of plastic bothers you at all, find a one. There are plenty of options to choose from.

Insulation
There may be no greater pleasure than crawling into a sleeping bag preheated by a warm Nalgene. Warming one’s sleeping bag with a water bottle is an excellent way to test its insulative capacity. How long will it stay warm? Will it burn you at its hottest? Nalgenes are the benchmark for this test. They never get dangerously hot, and they can keep liquids lukewarm through the entire night.

Klean Kanteens, as with all metal designs, have less effective insulation. The conductivity of the metal, which is very handy if you ever find yourself without a cooking vessel, is less useful when dealing with hot liquids. Wrapping it in a thick sock makes it possible to handle it without injury. Vaccuum-insulated versions are also an option for those who have hot drinks regularly, but they are usually too heavy to be considered practical for most outdoor pursuits.

Product Metrics

Durability
Durability is a huge determining factor in value. How long will it last? Collapsible models tend to be less durable than their rigid counterparts, due to frequent stress on flex points. The bodies of rigid contenders are usually very durable, but often have failure points on the lids. The most durable products we tested were the Klean Kanteen and the Camelbak Groove. The metal body of the Klean Kanteen was fully indestructible. Models that we bought right when they came onto the market are still getting good use. As for the Camelbak Groove, its thick walls made it incredibly sturdy. It withstood a literal beating, as we used it to drive an awl through bison leather when our mallet broke.

Ease of use
When testing for ease of use, we focused on moving parts and superfluous components. The fewer, the better. In this category, we preferred a design like the Nalgene, Klean Kanteen, and Platy Plus for their no-frills, screw-on screw-off lids. When using them in the dark, on climbing routes, or with one hand, the simplicity made a noticable difference. The Nalgene just barely edged out the other leaders in this category with its retaining strap, which kept us from worrying about losing the lid.

Utility
How practical is the product? How versatile? Is it just as useful in the backcountry as in a board meeting?

For this category, the Platy Plus was our winner. It rolls up and stows away discreetly, handles the largest volume of any of the products tested, and can be converted into a hydration pack, if you purchase a separate drinking tube. Unfortunately, the Platy Plus is not directly compatible with filters. (You can make it work, but it’s a pain). The wide-mouth products, such as the Camelbak Eddy and Groove, the Nalgene, the MSR Alpine, and wide-mouth versions of the Klean Kanteen are compatible. As rigid designs, they also lend themselves to non manufacturer-recommended uses. Plastic versions make great night-time heaters, and any rigid model can be used as a hammer or rolling pin. Metal models, particularly the Klean Kanteen, make great emergency vessels. But for sheer practicality, we prefer the Platy Plus.

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The MSR Miniworks EX screws onto the top of a Nalgene bottle for ease of use and added stability while pumping.
Credit: Max Neale

Leak-Proofness
Nearly all of the contenders we tested were reliably leak-proof. In general, models with simple screw-on, screw-off caps did the best in this category. “Sippy-tops”, nipples, or alternatives were sometimes hard to close, and sometimes leaked outright.


Awards
Editor's Choice
Or favorite, plastic or otherwise, was the Nalgene. This high-performing product proved, through intense testing, that it is just as good as it ever was. It is an iconic staple of the outdoor world, and as such most (nearly all) water-bottle accessories developed to fit the Nalgene, from water filters to the bottle sleeves on backpacks.
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The interior of the Chillwave has a mesh drop-in pocket perfectly sized for a Nalgene.
Credit: Chris Simrell

But it's the standard for good reason. The Nalgene is durable, light and simple. It's perfect, nothing but a non-leaking cap and body. No sippers, moving parts or breakable bits. And it makes a killer sleeping-bag warmer.

Best Buy
We nearly awarded the Editor's Choice to the Platypus PlusBottle. It is an outlier in an increasingly diverse field of collapsible models. While many of these products were "developing", the PlusBottle is mature. Like the Nalgene, it has the simplest possible design, just the cap and body. Unlike the Nalgene, this 2 liter version can roll up to the size of a tube of toothpaste. It can be converted to a hydration bladder, which we found really set it apart. It's incredibly light, and it costs less than $15.

Because the body is thin plastic, it will expire long before any Nalgene. Within a year and a half, if you mistreat it. But the PlusBottle will perform beyond expectations within that time, and hey, it's only $13.

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Platy Plus

Top Pick: Best Metal
The Klean Kanteen was our second highest scoring contender and the best metal design we have tested. While all plastic designs are now BPA free, there is growing concern about any type of plastic bottle, especially those that are used for hot or warm liquids. If you are concerned about using plastic, then the Kleen Kanteen is the way to go.

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Klean Kanteen
Credit: Klean Kanteen

Top Pick: Most Convenient
The Camelbak Eddy was the best straw or sipper version that we tested. It is incredibly durable and easy to use with one hand if you are driving or hiking. It is also the best option for kids and infants as it is almost spill proof, nearly unbreakable, and is unlikely to damage most surfaces if dropped.
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Olive using the Camelbak Eddy.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Application-Based Recommendations
Climbing: PlatyPlus
Day-hiking: Nalgene
Backpacking: Platy Plus/Nalgene
Winter: Klean Canteen
Lifestyle: Vapur, Liberty, Klean Kanteen

Atherton Phleger
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